Soft skills and teamwork: Azzurra’s story

Quality comes first. This is Menarini’s clear and unequivocal goal.
This goal is expressed within the Manufacturing reality by ensuring the production of quality drugs for the benefit of patients’ health.
In order to achieve its objectives and win the customers’ trust, Menarini strives to develop and valorise talent, aware that its main asset is, and will always be, its people.
People who have achieved high standards of professionalism through specific training courses, people who share the Company’s concrete objectives through which they can continue their path of growth and ensure the success of the entire organisation.
This is why we interviewed Azzurra Mervi, who joined Menarini in 2017 as Director of one of the group’s production plants and is now involved in one of the strategic projects announced by Menarini in 2020:
the construction of a new production plant for solid oral drugs. The production site, on the outskirts of Florence, will allow Menarini Group to increase the production of solid oral drugs, in order to support the successes of the Primary Care division and ensure its expected growth in the coming years, in the best interest of patients.
“These business necessities required the construction of a new production hub,” explained Azzurra, “I started working on it in May 2020, first as coordinator of the engineering area, then as coordinator of all the functions known as ‘technical operations’ (engineering, but also production, quality assurance, quality control, etc.) in an effort to reach our goal, working together with all the other company sectors involved of course. I am incredibly pleased by this opportunity because I came to Menarini from the chemistry world, where I had some manufacturing experience, but not of manufacturing in the pharma sector. It is a unique learning opportunity as it gives me a 360° view of all the technical functions of a pharmaceutical company.”
The ability to solve problems, to work under pressure and to have a clear, coherent way of working that is shared by colleagues and collaborators, are all important skills. Azzurra has developed them with time and continues to do so, going through learning stages that have contributed to her remarkable professional growth. 

“I worked for a chemical company for 10 years and my working career started at the same time as the great financial and economic crisis of 2008. At that time, the plant where I worked was at risk if it didn’t meet its targets in a challenging time frame, and that gave me a huge boost. Those years were a training ground that allowed me to gain a lot of technical knowledge, but also to become aware that I was going through a transformation process. My arrival at Menarini meant for me that there was a necessity to satisfy new needs, and therefore I had to develop new skills; in particular, it allowed me to reflect on the difference between necessity and excellence. This awareness is bringing about an important change in me. Only by understanding and knowing the environment and the Company in which you are going to work, only by modulating and developing ad hoc solutions can you be truly effective. I am grateful that Menarini saw an asset in my different background, which was distant from the pharma world, and recognised my potential.”
Competences, soft skills and over-specialisation are aspects that strongly influence an engineer’s profile. However, the mosaic of a manager’s knowledge is made up of many elements, some of which are not directly related to the most common university experiences. The skills of each professional do not come from the work context alone, and it is through complete self-awareness that one is able to go beyond the technical dimension and build a high-profile career.

“My job often has to deal with loneliness, like all jobs in which you have to make decisions. I am an unusual engineer; I am very interested in psychology. Self-awareness, as well as awareness of others are fundamental skills in my line of work. They are not innate qualities, it is a constant work that I do regardless of which activity I am performing, I apply it to all aspects of my life.

The success of a team is made of many different skills and ways of being.
There are people who pay attention to details and others who try to always consider the bigger picture. I am not an over-specialisation person. We live in a fluid reality, and what I normally try to do is to have many heads, many eyes, many different ways of thinking to try to solve a problem or seize an opportunity. The more you know, the more glimpses of the world you can see, the better chances you have at getting the right intuition at the right moment, the one that allows you to prevent any damage.

To be at the helm of the production process it is necessary to know how to collaborate, and to calibrate the messages well according to the people who make up the team and according to their professionalism as well, without losing authenticity. Leading her own working group by motivating colleagues is one of Azzurra’s goals, and its challenge is precisely that of making the best use of people’s skills, thus contributing to the realisation of Menarini’s projects. 

“Complex realities need complicity, but also a healthy degree of challenge between the different realities and departments. The success of a company can be broken down into many objectives embodied by its various souls, and it is only by solving the difficult equation that allows all of them to be met that it can be guaranteed.
In May 2020 I was asked to participate in the construction of the new Menarini production plant.
As I said, this is an especially important investment, indeed a unique event, because seeing a structure being built from scratch is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In making this transition from site management to corporate, I had to and wanted to challenge myself. I had to adapt, develop new sets of skills, widen my area of influence, and learn to negotiate more. The biggest challenge is to get people to understand that there is a single, multifaceted objective to be achieved, to motivate them properly and to accompany them in a path of growth. Generally speaking, I expect a lot from myself and therefore also from others. Today more than ever I am trying to be demanding and preserve those around me more at the same time.” 

Azzurra’s career is an example of perseverance and stubbornness. The desire to explore new professional horizons also represents a successful attempt to leave the comfort zone, a haven that is as safe as it is insidious. 

“By my own nature I need to get out of my comfort zone, that’s what gives me energy. In general, I try to encourage people to do the same, to have a positive attitude, to be critical toward themselves and not to be afraid of failures and frustrations, because to an extent they are a part of professional growth. I am aware that this is an easier task for young people rather than adults, it is easier for them to come out of their shell as long as there is a concrete and tangible need. Almost nobody comes out of their shell simply because it’s the right thing to do or a colleague asks them to. If, however, the Company itself starts asking us to do it and we all start working differently, the situation changes. In today’s world, the ability to change is an essential skill, so my advice is to always cultivate it, without letting it become an obsession.” 

To conclude, Azzurra makes a consideration on the concept of quality, which is Menarini’s business mood. A value that she honours through concrete actions, making her daily work a constant search for perfection while at the same time trying to include the right complicity between the various functions within the company.

Protecting and ensuring quality is obviously part of my job, as it is for all my colleagues. However, achieving quality is a complex challenge, with paradoxes that constantly need to be managed and solved if we don’t want this word to become devoid of meaning. Quality is a daily goal that we have to achieve all together.

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